What does fracking have to do with scholarly publishing and journal pricing? While the library financial landscape has improved since the depth of the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, it still cannot be considered robust. As articles such as this one chronicle annual serials price increases, libraries, publishers, and vendors search for innovative ways to fulfill information needs within the finite, predefined budget environment. New business and access models ranging from the initial e-journal big deal packages, article pay per view, open access, mega-journals, and publisher e-journal database pricing have evolved in response to the environment; libraries, publishers, and vendors have merged, consolidated, or disappeared along the way. Just as fracking keeps the oil and gas flowing, these strategies enable the current scholarly publishing ecosystem to extract the necessary resources—intellectual and financial—to survive.
Like the ground in the Ring of Fire that surrounds the Pacific Ocean, the serials world is in almost constant motion, responding simultaneously to pressures both large and small. As in seismology, some of the pressures result in incremental changes, while others, often the result of years of incremental change hidden below the surface, seem suddenly to shake the serials world like an earthquake.
Journal price data is important for budget management processes, but price alone is not the sole factor determining value. Some metrics, like Impact Factor, have become important in assessing value, and similar value metrics will only increase in importance in the future. The implementation of the Counter 4 during 2014 will expand the availability of usage data from journals, databases, ebooks, and multimedia to support better decision-making. Building upon COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) and working with the digital object identifier (DOI) and ORCID (open researcher and contributor ID) identifier, the PIRUS (Publisher and Institutional Repository Usage Statistics) Code of Practice is designed to provide usage data at the individual article level, consolidating usage across platforms.
The birth of the World Wide Web 25 years ago was the big bang event that spurred more change in the serials and scholarly publishing world than seen in the century that preceded it. Since that time, we have rapidly evolved from the print world to that of e-journals, e-journal packages, and open access (OA). But in the serials ecosystem, as in nature, not all things evolve at the same rate, and the cumulative impact of subtle steps can bring about profound change over time. Despite some notable events, such as the purchase of Mendeley by Elsevier, the sale of Springer to BC Partners, and the launch of SCOAP 3, there was no major disruption in the serials world during 2013.
Stuck between the rock (stagnant budgets)and the hard place (steady serials price increases), every year libraries are forced to come up with creative ways to meet the ever-growing needs of their users. But inventiveness has limits, and many libraries are nearing the end of their ability to leverage shrinking buying power.